Holes in the family history

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Someone in the family wrote down family history for my great grandfather that came over from Europe in the early 1900s. Facts can be loosely dealt with when a relative is relating a story for future generations. What isn’t known is filled in with speculation and memory fades with time. After closer examination several holes started to appear in the story.


The story begins;

“Clemence DeFruiter and Emil Van Houtte got married in Brest, France abt 1899.” I do not have identifying information on this fact, so for now we will conclude that it is correct. Brest is a seaport in France that was known to be the place to leave from for travel to the United States. Also included in the story is that my grandfather was born in Tourning, France and my great aunt born in Waterloo, France. Waterloo is in Belgium on the west side and Brest, France where they were supposed to have been married is on the north-west side of France.


“They waited for an English boat that was supposed to take them to Bradford, PA. Instead they went to St John, Canada.” It is true that they ended up in St. John, Canada, if they knew this was going to be their destination is still unknown.


“It cost $50 to come on the boat from France to St. John. It was an awful boat that carried cattle, horses, ran out of food and was 21 days on the water. A lot of people were sick due to the food. The people who ran the boat were mean. If complaints were about the food, the crew told them to sit down and be quiet. The tickets read Bradford, North America. They arrived in St John and had to look for an interpreter to help them get to Buffalo, NY. They took a train to Buffalo and came to Bradford at 2:00 AM.” I haven’t found any information on the tickets and cannot imagine why the ship would have landed in Canada if scheduled for a U.S. docking. Bradford is not a coastal sea port, and St John is.

“Their sponsor lived in Painters Mills and worked in the chemical factory. Before Emil and Clemence left France the sponsor wrote and said he was working in a brewery but there was none here. Emil had worked in a brewery in France and thought he could get a good job here.” This is an incorrect statement. At the time the Bradford Brewing company was in existence at the end of Fourth Street near the Brie Railroad tracks, (approximately under the Rte. 219 expressway nowadays), it operated for over 20 years. In 1905 it had just purchased the bottling plants of the David Campbell & Company of Davis Street, and the Goodwin Brothers of Chestnut Streets. Campbell and Goodwin were manufacturers and bottlers of pop, ginger ale, cider, and all kinds of soft drinks. This economically wise move gave the Bradford Brewery the ability to expand into the soft drink market on a large scale. The purchase of the bottling plants nearly doubled the brewery’s size. By 1905, the storage capacity had increased to 10,000 barrels, and about 30,000 barrels were being brewed yearly. Hugo Artleib became brew master, and was "zealously careful in the management of his department". If Emil ever applied for or got a job in the brewery is not known at this time.


“The men from Mt Alton came to pick them up the next morning at the Holley Hotel. This was in 1906 or 1907.” Data taken from the census shows the years to be 1905/1906.


“They went by horse and buggy and got a company house from the chemical factory. They moved to Mt Alton and worked in the chemical factory there. Emil also worked in West Line, Backus (near Smethport), Painters Mills and Mt Alton. He was 72 or 74 when he died. Clemence was about 3 years younger than her husband.” If the truth was placed in the census records, Clemence was 7 years younger than her husband.


“Amos was 16 when he went to work at the B & S. The plant burned down and he went to work for Jim Griffin as a laborer-plastering contractor. He worked for Jim Griffin for 7 years. For 3 years he was an apprentice. Amos didn’t like the job too well – messy, dirty, and wet! Worked on Melvin Ave – some corporation from Pittsburgh and did the stucco work. Amos spoke French at home until he went to school. He only went through the 8th grade at Mt Alton.” According to the census, the family spoke German at home.




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